Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seed vault protects the world's crops from climate instability

Science Daily: As climate change is credited as one of the main drivers behind soaring food prices, the Global Crop Diversity Trust is undertaking a major effort to search crop collections—from Azerbaijan to Nigeria—for the traits that could arm agriculture against the impact of future changes. Traits, such as drought resistance in wheat, or salinity tolerance in potato, will become essential as crops around the world have to adapt to new climate conditions.

Climate change is having the most negative impact in the poorest regions of the world, already causing a decrease in yields of most major food crops due to droughts, floods, increasingly salty soils and higher temperatures.

Crop diversity is the raw material needed for improving and adapting food crops to harsher climate conditions and constantly evolving pests and diseases. However, it is disappearing from many of the places where it has been placed for safekeeping—the world's genebanks. Compounding the fact that it is not well conserved is the fact that it is not well understood. A lack of readily available and accurate data on key traits can severely hinder plant breeders' efforts to identify material they can use to breed new varieties best suited for the climates most countries will experience in the coming decades. The support provided by the Global Crop Diversity Trust will not only rescue collections which are at risk, but enable breeders and others to screen collections for important characteristics.

…The mission of the Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is fundamental to fighting hunger and to the very future of agriculture, funding is unreliable and diversity is being lost. The Trust is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem, and has already raised over $140 million. For further information, please visit:

Artist's rendering of the Seed Vault from the Crop Trust's website

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